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TECH WINDOWS

IPv6 vs IPv4: what are they, what is the most stable difference?

IPv4 runs out of unique IP addresses so IPv6 is planned to replace it. The disparity between the two is clarified in this article and why IPv6 adoption was so lent.

IP, short for Internet Protocol, is how internet connected devices locate and communicate with one another. At least one IP address is allocated to each device connected to the Internet – computers, smartphones, servers, vehicles , smart refrigerators and so on. An IP address identifies a device anywhere in the world, and its location. The new version of this technology is IPv6.

Much like a phone number, you can think of an IP address. It has an area code pointing towards a general location. Phone numbers are typically associated with particular individuals or companies, so they are a reliable but incomplete way to identify someone.

IPv4 was developed in 1983 before the internet ever went global, and yet today it remains the primary means of routing internet traffic between devices. A public IPv4 address, such as the one assigned to any computer on which you are reading this post, is composed of numbers and digits. And it looks like this:

An IPv4 address can be any combination of four 0 to 254 individual numbers. That is 4 bytes, with an overall range of possible addresses of 4.3 billion.

It does sound like a lot, right?

But the huge increase in devices that are coming online is beginning to overwhelm the machine. We tend to run out of numbers. Ultimately we ‘re going to hit the cap that will cripple the internet and keep new devices from going online.

Here’s where IPv6 comes in. It basically does the same thing as IPv4 but there are a lot more addresses available. A public IPv6 address seems this way:

IPv6 addresses each have 128 bits, and use hexadecimal digits. That means they can use zero to 10 instead of zero by 10 (base 10), plus ‘a’ by ‘f’ (base 16). This gives us a complete number of potential combinations of 340 undecilllions (3.4 x 10 ^ 28).

Any time soon we will not have to think about running out of IPv6 emails.

Then why don't we already just turn to IPv6?

The transition process has been sluggish. The bottleneck mainly lies with internet service providers, but also with data centers and end users.

Five global registries – one for each continent / region – manage IP addresses that distribute 16.8 million IPv4 addresses at a time. Between 2011 and 2015, its top-level addresses were consumed by all but one of the five registries.

Most ISPs allocate dynamic IP addresses to the users to handle this issue. That means your IP address is likely to change periodically – probably any time you connect to another network. Devices that go offline offer up their IP addresses, so that anyone can use them. Basically, you are renting but your IP address is not yours. That slows the depletion of IPv4 addresses significantly.

The transformation is taking place but IPv4 and IPv6 are running concurrently for now. Google estimates that it is accessed by around 14 per cent of its users over IPv6, up from less than 10 per cent a year earlier. Deployment progress is variable between countries. According to Comcast, about half of US consumers now use IPv6.

Cost is the biggest factor which holds back IPv6 deployment. Upgrading all the servers, routers , and switches that have been so reliant on IPv4 for so long takes time and resources. Although most of these devices in infrastructure might hypothetically be upgraded, many businesses tend to wait until they require replacement. The attrition process has slowed things down.

The transformation is taking place but IPv4 and IPv6 are running concurrently for now. Google estimates that it is accessed by around 14 per cent of its users over IPv6, up from less than 10 per cent a year earlier. Deployment progress is variable between countries. According to Comcast, about half of US consumers now use IPv6.

Cost is the biggest factor which holds back IPv6 deployment. Upgrading all the servers, routers , and switches that have been so reliant on IPv4 for so long takes time and resources. Although most of these devices in infrastructure might hypothetically be upgraded, many businesses tend to wait until they require replacement. The attrition process has slowed things down.

Is IPv6 Better than IPv4?

When IPv6 was first introduced, businesses needed to encrypt IPSec Internet traffic, a fairly common (but not nearly as common as SSL) encryption standard. Encryption scrambles the internet traffic information, so that someone who intercepts it can not decipher it.

But that necessity turned into more of a strong recommendation to bring more businesses on board. Data encryption and decryption requires resources for computing which require more capital. IPSec can also be implemented on IPv4, meaning IPv6 is equally as safe as IPv4 in theory. We’ll probably see a rise in overall usage of IPSec as we move, but not everyone needs it.

Although we are in the process of transformation, some experts claim that users of IPv6 are potentially more at risk than those who stick to IPv4. Some ISPs use transition technologies – specifically IPv6 tunnels – that render users more vulnerable to attack. Normally ISPs use a tunnel broker to allow users access to IPv6 content on their IPv4 networks. Hackers will target users of IPv6 tunnels using packet injection and reflective attacks. Notice that some brokers in tunnels provide better protection than others.

It is estimated that the process will take some more years before it is complete so these process strategies will stay in place for some time.

A new IPv6 feature comes in with another possible security issue: autoconfiguration. This allows devices to allocate IP addresses to themselves without having to run a server. These addresses are created using the unique MAC address of a device which is accessible to every phone , computer and router. This generates a unique identifier that could be used by third parties to track individual users, and identify their hardware. Windows, Mac OSX, and iOS devices also have privacy extensions installed and allowed by default, so most users won’t have a problem with that.

Is IPv6 getting quicker than IPv4?

Compared with IPv4, IPv6 would have no noticeable effect on Internet speeds.

Having said that, as requests are converted to IPv4 and vice versa, some transfer methods such as IPv6 tunnels can generate extra latency.

Were there any other significant differences between IPv4 and IPv6?

The primary goal of IPv6 is to build a larger address space, but it does include some other bells and whistles which distinguish it from IPv4. Most of these updates are not going to be that interesting to you unless you are a network administrator, but we’re going to mention them here anyway.

  1. Multicasting facilitates transmission of a single packet to multiple destinations in a single send process.
  2. Autoconfiguration lets devices configure their IP address and other parameters automatically without the need for a server
  3. Network layer protection applies IPSec encryption to all nodes, although this is not a strict requirement anymore
  4. IPv6 can operate better with mobile devices if triangular routing is omitted
  5. The handling of requests needed by the routers is much more effective and streamlined

What impact does IPv6 have on my VPN?

Almost all VPNs sadly only run on IPv4. If you send a request for a website that defaults to an IPv6 address, the request will be resolved by using an IPv6 DNS server outside of your VPN. This is called an IPv6 leak, which can expose your true position to a website or app like Hulu and Netflix that is geo-locked. If you set up the website to detect such leaks, this will prevent you from accessing content. Here you can search for IPv6 DNS leaks (and IPv4 leak tests too).

Although we encourage users to add IPv6, you ‘d have to disable it on your computer , tablet or smartphone in this case. This can typically be achieved anywhere in the settings for internet access, depending on your computer.

Given the extra costs of running an IPv6 DNS server, very few VPN providers support IPv6 at all.

How do I switch to IPv6?

Simply allow this on your device and/or smartphone, you can turn to IPv6. By default, most newer devices will have both allowed. If not, the settings in your internet connection can be toggled on.